Integral Instruments - With prelude to Justified Voices (Book 7)

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I led her by the hand and smiled brightly, taking the steps slowly so she could soak everything in.

“Ryan, this is...”

“Boring, when I’m alone.” I smiled back at her.

“I just...”

“I want to show you something. It’s one of my favorite spots in the house and I think you might like it, but you need to breathe.” I paused and turned to face her, placing my hands on her shoulders as she visibly tried to steady her breathing.

When she gave a nod, I led her to the virtually empty, but open upper level room. My piano room.

The room had a wall and an entry door, giving the sense of privacy without really having it, because once you entered you realized that it was more like a balcony and it opened to the great room below. With a rustic looking, but very stable, wooden banister.

In this room there was one instrument. One that was solely placed in this room due to the acoustics. A Grande piano.

“The acoustics must be amazing...” She whispered and when I turned to her to face her again I knew exactly where Elle got those saucered eyes from and couldn’t help but smile at the beauty.

“Give it a try.” I bent to whisper in her ear.

“No, I couldn’t.” She shook her head, “It’s your’s.”

“I want you to play.” At my words a blush crept up to her face that illuminated her and made her appear just as giddy as the kids had been to explore the house.

When she bit her lip nervously it aroused so many emotions that I just wanted to fall to my knees and be this woman’s servant.

“I don’t have my music here.” She shook her head again.

“Your telling me you don’t know those numbers by heart?” I cocked a brow at her and she smiled bashfully.

“Go ahead.” I pointed to the piano, “Have your fun.”

She bit her lip again, but this time she practically ran over to the piano with the most beautiful smile, that it made my heart crumble.

“Okay... I may have something, but don’t judge...” She loked out onto the snow outside. From here we could see the ocean in the distance, past the trees and field, “It kind of goes with the weather and the view.”

“Play it.” I sat down next to her and nudged her along. She was so cute when she got excited.

Then she began to play and the melody began slow, speeding up to a light and lifting melody that was complex. I felt my heart flutter as her hands rapidly melt to the keys.

The sound came out in waves, slowing and speeding up at just the right notes. It made me feel the snow outside and the warmth within my home. It was beautiful and so softly complex, just as every ounce of this woman I loved was.

She was so wrapped up in her beautiful harmony that she didn’t notice when the kids came in and sat around the piano, or when my parents stood back on the lower level so they could peer up onto the balcony and watch her play.

I met my father’s gaze and he smiled warmly, giving me an approving nod. Not that I had needed it, but it was nice to know that he liked Meg.

This was her father. Megan had learned this from him. She was so beautiful inside and out and so talented, that I was surprised she had never followed in his footsteps.

This woman rocked my world and she didn’t even play rock music. She played light and uplifting, relaxing music. Music that soothed the soul. Music that I wanted to come home to.

When she was finished everyone began to clap, even Gregg who now stood in the doorway.

“Oh!” Her face turned beet red and she covered her face in my shoulder.

“You play piano like a professional.” Gregg smiled brightly, “So why do you like my brother?”

“Shut up.” I rolled my eyes and laughed.

“That was beautiful, Mom.” Arlee swiped at her cheeks with a sniffle, “I remember watching the concerto that grandpa did with that song.”

“Mommy, can you play something else?” Piper asked, her thumb going right back into her mouth.

“Oh yes! Please do! That was so beautiful, Megan.” My mother chorused.

“Oh, I shouldn’t.” Meg sat back on the bench, “It’s Ryan’s piano. He told me to play and I couldn’t help myself.”

“And I want you to play.” I spoke gently in her ear, “This piano rarely gets the use it needs and I love watching you play.”

“It’s a beautiful piano...” She caressed the keys then shook her head to clear it, “This was the perfect place for you to put this.”

“It was.” I smiled down at her, “but I’m going to have to get some couches and chairs for your adoring fans.”

She laughed and nudged me, “Don’t be silly.”

“I’m not.” I laughed and changed the subject, noting that I did need to get at least a chaise up here for the girls, “What are you going to play next?”

“Why don’t you play something?” Her eyes narrowed at me.

“Nope, it’s all you... I see your fingers itching.” I pointed to her fingers splayed just under the keys, “Enlighten us.”

“Play a slow one, Mom.” Elle surprised me with her enraptured, peaceful smile as she snuggled into Arlee.

“I’m going to give you your space and sit on the floor with my ladies.” I gave Meg a kiss and pulled Piper into my lap on the floor. It only took an instant for Elle to lean up close and Arlee scooted in, then Gregg sat next to us.

This woman enraptured us all. Her melodious mind, her creativity, her art and her love of nature had captured me.


“So, what did they think about it?” I asked Megan that night. We had made it back to her house with two exhausted little girls and a teen with frostbite on her fingers, after playing in the snow for 3 hours.

The girls were asleep by the time we pulled out of the driveway and we had just tucked them into their beds.

“You heard them. It was like a big playground.” She scoffed.

“They spent over an hour listening to you play piano.” I kissed her on the cheek as she began to unpack their wet winter clothes from the duffel bags and hang them on the racks by the door.

“Mmm...” She smiled wistfully, “I love that piano... Maybe as much as I love you.”

“Ouch.” I feigned being heartbroken and she smacked my chest with Elle’s wet snow pants.

“You know, if you guys lived with me, you wouldn’t have to unpack all this stuff.”

“I don’t mind it.” She shrugged.

“I want you to move in with me, Meg.” I stood firm on my decision, watching her as I told in earnest.

“Ryan...” She began to shake head, pulling out soaking wet hats and mittens, “What if we don’t last?”

“What makes you think we won’t?”

“We won’t if we’re all stuck in this tiny-ass house together.” Arlee commented as she made her way to the fridge.

“Arlee!” Meg froze and gaped at her daughter.

“What? I liked it up there.” She shrugged and pulled a water bottle from the fridge.

“What about Piper and Elle?” She asked her daughter rather than me, but I was the one to answer.

“They’ll have their own rooms.” I shrugged, "If they want."

Arlee rolled her eyes at her mother’s feeble attempt to thwart my proposal, “Piper has been complaining for a three weeks about not having any privacy.”

“Arlee.” She said in warning.

“Just pointing out the facts.” Arlee shrugged again. “I’m on Ryan’s side.”

“Thanks, kid.” I gave her a nod.

“No problem." She shrugged.

“What about school and everything?” Meg asked Arlee, “You’ll have to transfer.”

“Not true.” I spoke up and Meg gaped at me. “I’ll just pay into the ones they currently go to and have them continue going there, if that’s what they want.”

Her jaw dropped, “Ryan, I wouldn’t ask you to help with my kids.”

“You don’t have to,” I shrugged, “I’ll do it because I care about them and I want them to be happy.”

“Okay, guidelines!” Meg’s voice came out in warning, like it had all those months ago when I’d hit her car.

“Uh oh!” I heard Arlee suck in a breath, but didn’t turn to look at her.

“You can NOT spoil my kids, Ryan. You can not give them everything their hearts desire. They need to work for what they want and study and-”

“And they will. The rewards will just be... Different..." I winked at Arlee, "Instead of TV time for finishing their homework they’ll get a new car, or a pony.”

“I’m in.” Arlee snickered.

“I’m serious here!” Meg stomped her foot.

“Doing the school thing for them is not spoiling them." I sighed, "It’s simply your happiness with as little change for the kids as possible. Admit it, we’re pretty fucking happy together.”

“When you put it like that...” She threw dryly.

“Come on... You know what I mean. Can we at least talk to the girls?”

She thought for a moment, then gave a tight, singular nod, “Fine, but no ponies!”

“Damnit!” Arlee sighed.

“Oh, shut it! You don’t even like horses!” Meg shot at her.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

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